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Honeybee and Human Health Stress Factors

Reference: Good Food Gone Bad

In 2002, in support of the ongoing effort to better understand the complexities that surround human health, an international consortium of scientists and universities decided to sequence the honeybee’s DNA. Honeybees captured scientific musing because they exist in a complex social community and their social behaviour is closely related to our own. Referenced as the Bee Genome Proect (BGP) the study pinned down some gene and cell functionality uniquely shared between honeybees and those of us who are vertebrates leading scientists to believe the evolutionary ties of honeybees and humans go much deeper than originally thought.

Case in point is the AT Rich ARID3B family of genes. This gene family plays an important role in embryonic development and is responsible for a range of cellular functions that help to characterize the beings we are about to become. Acting like pieces of an intricate jigsaw puzzle, they establish groups of cells in the proper relationship to each other during embryonic growth as in the honeybee’s black and yellow stripped jacket. Honeybees also use the same family of genes as humans to sense time, but their ability is considerably powered up. Honeybee circadian rhythm doesn’t need to rely on light or the position of the sun to follow the day’s 24-hour cycle. They can sense time in total darkness and in different time zones. And, just like humans, pheromones play a central role in their life. Honeybees have one of the most complex pheromone communication systems found in Nature.

During the genome mapping, it was discovered the honeybee genome consists of 10,000 genes with approximately 236 million base pair. By comparison, the human genome has roughly 26,000 genes with approximately three billion base pair, as opposed to the 100,000 science originally thought when genetically engineered seeds first made it big on the industrial agriculture scene. When molecular biologists began analyzing the human genome in 2001, we discovered Homo sapiens have one-fifth as much genetic material than wheat and we share one quarter of our genes with fish. Apart from being just out of the aquatic league, only 300 human genes have no counterpart in the mouse genome. We also have 113 genes that we borrowed directly from bacteria and we share approximately 35% of our 7,000 protein families with algae, flowering plants and trees. Setting aside any illusion of evolutionary superiority for a moment, the Human Genome Project also cleared up a serious misconception. The entire paradigm of genetic engineering technology was based upon a 70-year old hypothesis that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project failed to support that hypothesis forcing researchers to look to epigenetic factors or “factors beyond the control of the gene” to explain how organisms are formed and how they work.

While both studies probably opened more questions than answers, one thing is certain. The biological barriers that separate humans from honeybees are thinner than we like to believe. In 2013 OPERA Bee Health in Europe issued this info graphic on the stressors on honeybee health with an emphasis on beneficial microbes that exist to keep the honeybee population health. OP used the same framing to illustrate how industrial farming practices affect human health stressors as well.